Industry and Genius

THE WORDS AND LETTERS OF JOHN BASKERVILLE

By

John Baskerville (1705/6–75) is a local figure with a worldwide reputation.

He made eighteenth-century Birmingham a city without typographic equal, changed the course of type design and emancipated printers the world over. Yet despite his importance, fame and influence, many aspects of his work and life remain unexplored and his contribution to the art of typography has gone largely unrecognised.

Baskerville was a flamboyant man with a towering personality and colourful character. An indefatigable ‘doer’ and inspired businessman he was a mercantile and industrial entrepreneur, an arch-nonconformist who excelled in a city populated by religious, political and instinctive nonconformists. A confirmed atheist who flouted convention, he lived openly with his lover, adored show and dressed like a peacock. Baskerville was a maverick and an adventurer who pursued any avenue, however bizarre, which promised fortune, fame or infamy.

Yet despite his flamboyant and unconventional lifestyle, Baskerville was a respected figure amongst a coterie of Birmingham experimenters: a self-taught man who combined a passion for design and technology with a relentless quest for perfection whilst convinced of his ability to achieve anything to which he set his mind.

KEYWORDS: Birmingham, Printing, Typography, Japan Ware, Books, John Baskerville, Enlightement

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